There’s a quote in the Amy Sedaris movie Strangers with Candy, “I’m not pushing you away, I’m pulling me towards myself.” And that about wraps up how I view my young daughter as she prepares for this journey to Kindergarten.
I’ve come across a number of “Letting Go” blog posts that capture the emotions a parent may feel in reaction to a child moving on to a new stage in life. The posts I haven’t seen are the ones that share how the child is feeling. So I’ve been listening more closely to my girl these days to get a pulse of how she feels about school, learning, new friends, and life.
In a nutshell: my daughter is our first-born, an older sister to a three-year-old brother, the first paternal grandchild and the only maternal granddaughter. Her birth helped bring together neighbors in our old neighborhood and kicked off a baby-making revolution on the street! She was three-years-old when we moved to a cohousing community, and has found her place amongst a dozen boys with no girls her age to play with. She is observant and compassionate, and despite her shy moments will find her voice when it comes to laying down the law. Together, we have adventured and explored our city (and beyond) and passed on the traditional preschool experience.
When I took her to her new school for the first time, she was tucked behind my knee but very excited to be there. She played with Lego in the assistant principal’s office and timidly answered her questions. She looked like a cat checking out new turf when we walked down the hall to the Kindergarten classrooms. Art and stories. Leaf pressings. Experiments and fish tanks. Her giddiness was tempered by something, so I used my voice for her. “She’s nervous about what she needs to know beforehand.” The assistant principal asked if she liked to read books with Mommy and Daddy – yes? Then she was right on track. The worry melted away and she began to poke and prod at things in the classroom.
I know that this is a difficult time for her. She didn’t have that experience of being dropped off at preschool to develop relationships with strangers who became her trusted teacher or new friends. I was always there to teach, to befriend, and to comfort. There is an unknown experience coming into her predictable life.
Yet she has this pride in her new space away apart from her family. She tells her little brother, “I’ll be going to school on my own, and then in a couple of years you’ll go there too.” She talks with other kids on the playground about her new school. Recently she saw a little girl whom she played with before, and found out that her friend was going into 2nd grade at the same school. The other little girl was so excited and declared that she must come say hello to her on the playground. Slowly, small new circles of familiarity are forming in front of my daughter’s eyes.
I won’t be able to fix the loneliness she might feel, so I will remember the moments when I started to feel less lonely in Kindergarten. I won’t bandage her knee when she trips on the playground, so I will save a kiss and a hug for her when she comes home. I will put down the broom or stop folding the laundry and listen. Maybe I’ll learn to listen fiercely and not try to solve every painful new thing she experiences, and ask what she thinks of the situation. She is growing into herself more each day, and I want her to trust that girl and her thoughts implicitly.